Top 25 Rankings 1901-1935
1905 National Championship
College Football Top 25
above is Michigan at Chicago in 1905, the biggest game the West had
seen to that point. 27,000 watched 11-0 Chicago give 12-1 Michigan
their first loss in 5 years, and score the only points Michigan gave up
in 1905, winning 2-0 on a late safety.
I summarized and compared co-champions 11-0 Chicago and 10-0 Yale in my 1905 national championship article. Either could be ranked #1, but since a 1905 AP poll would have gone with Yale, that's what we'll go with here.
Yale defeated #5 Harvard (8-2-1) 6-0 in their finale, and no one else
came within a touchdown of them, including #10 Princeton, #15 Army, #18
Brown, #23 Penn State, and #24 Syracuse. They played 3 other teams that
would have been ranked near the top 25, 7-2-1 Wesleyan, 6-3 Holy Cross,
and 4-3-2 Columbia, so 9 of their 10 opponents were top 35. Quite a deep schedule.
Chicago defeated #3 Michigan (12-1) 2-0 in their finale, the game of
the year. They also defeated #6 Wisconsin (8-2) 4-0 on the road, and
they swatted away the rest of their opponents more easily, including
wins over #21 Indiana (8-1-1), #21 Purdue (6-1-1), 8-2 Iowa, 8-2-1
Northwestern, and 5-4 Illinois.
took their first loss since 1900, and gave up their only points of the
season on a single game-winning safety, at #2 Chicago in their finale. They generally rolled up huge scores, and they defeated #6 Wisconsin 12-0, #16 Vanderbilt 18-0, and #17 Nebraska 31-0.
12-0-1 Penn may have been rated higher than Michigan in a 1905 AP poll,
but since they took an upset tie at home to #11 Lafayette (7-2-1), and
Michigan did not take an upset, we'll rate Michigan higher here. Penn also had 4 close wins, one over an unrated opponent, while Michigan did not have a close win.
Penn defeated #5 Harvard, #8 Swarthmore, #12 Carlisle, and #18
Brown. Their weakest performance was a 6-5 home win over 6-4 Cornell
(#30-35) in their finale.
took their losses at #4 Penn and to #1 Yale at home in their finale,
both by a touchdown. Sandwiched between those games they took an upset
tie at home against #9 Dartmouth (7-1-2). Their big wins came over #12
Carlisle, #15 Army, and #18 Brown. They played all 6 of their rated
opponents in consecutive games.
8-2 Wisconsin took their losses to #2 Chicago and at #3 Michigan (the game shown above), giving
each team its toughest game except when the two played each other.
Wisconsin's biggest win came 16-12 at #7 Minnesota, a 10-1 juggernaut
that put up humongous scores in their other 10 games (average score in
those games 53-1). Wisconsin had no trouble with the rest of their
schedule, which was very weak.
Wisconsin's coach led the team for only 8 years, but he was
probably the best head coach in their history. It was Phil King
(pictured at left), a Hall of Fame player who had been a three-time All
American quarterback at Princeton 1890-1893. He went 66-11-1 as coach
of Wisconsin 1896-1902 and 1905, so this was an encore season for him.
He also went 7-3 at Georgetown in 1903, for a total of 73-14-1, and all
9 of his teams were top 25 caliber. He won 3 conference titles at
Wisconsin, and his 1901 team came very close to meriting a mythical
Wisconsin fielded 4 All-Western players in 1905, and 2 of them,
halfback Albion Findlay and tackle Wilson Bertke, made Walter Camp's
3rd team All American list.
Wisconsin's big win at 10-1
Minnesota was their first victory in the series since their perfect
season in 1901. 25,000 attended. Minnesota scored first thanks to a
Wisconsin fumble, but Albion Findlay scored a pair of touchdowns to
give Wisconsin a 12-6 halftime lead. They added a field goal to ice the
game, and Minnesota scored a touchdown late in the contest to make the
final score look better for them.
As noted above,
10-1 Minnesota lost 16-12 to #6 Wisconsin at home, and they won their
other 10 games by an average score of 53-1, including 35-0 over #17 Nebraska, 39-0 over 8-2 Iowa, 72-6 over 8-2-1 Northwestern, and 42-0 over 6-3 Iowa State.
7-1 Swarthmore took their loss at #4 Penn, and they defeated #11
Lafayette (7-2-1) and #13 Navy (10-1-1), as well as a pair of good
unrated teams, 6-4 Cornell and 7-2-1 Wesleyan.
coach was George Brooke, a Hall of Fame player at Swarthmore and Penn
1889-1895. He had been a 2-time All American fullback and won a pair of
MNCs at Penn 1894-1895. As a coach, he went 4-1 at Stanford in 1897,
then came home to Swarthmore 1900-1912 and went 72-33-6, fielding top
25 caliber teams for 5 straight seasons 1903-1907. Crosstown power Penn
hired him away after that, but he went a poor 13-12-4 there 1913-1915.
Overall he was 89-46-10. Brooke won the national amateur squash
championship in 1904.
Swarthmore's star player in 1905 was Hall
of Fame guard Tiny Maxwell (in center of above picture). He played for
Chicago 1902-1903, where the 240 pound lineman, quite large for the
time, was known as Fatty Maxwell. He moved on to Swarthmore 1904-1905
and got a better nickname. The Maxwell Award, given annually to college
football's best player, is named for him.
Maxwell is best
known to college football historians as the face that launched a
thousand reforms, a legend about a photograph taken of him after the
team's loss to Penn. Penn's strategy in
this game was to work him over with 3 linemen, until Maxwell's nose was
broken and both eyes swollen nearly shut. He held up for all 60
minutes, and after the game a picture was allegedly taken of his
face, mangled and dripping blood.
When president Theodore
Roosevelt saw the picture, as the story goes, he was so horrified,
this coming on top of an outcry all year over the high number of deaths
and serious injuries due to football, that he almost abolished the
sport. Instead, a parade of new rules, including the legalization of
the forward pass, were instituted for the next season. However, no one
has ever been able to locate this photograph, and the story about it
did not surface, as far as can be determined, until decades after the
Swarthmore was not a one-man team in 1905, though. Quarterback Wilmer Cromwell made Walter Camp's 3rd team All America list.
took an ugly loss to unrated 5-4 Colgate, and an ugly tie at
nearly-rated 3-1-2 Amherst, but their other tie was a positive, at #5
Harvard. They defeated #10 Princeton and #18 Brown in their finale,
both on the road, and they also beat nearly-rated 6-3 Holy Cross.
8-2 Princeton took their losses to #1 Yale and #9 Dartmouth, and they defeated #11 Lafayette 22-4.
took their losses at #8 Swarthmore and at #10 Princeton, but they gave
12-0-1 Penn (#4) their only blemish in a 6-6 tie on the road. They did
not play any other good teams, but they shut out the rest of their
opponents and won those games easily (average score in their wins 43-0).
Lafayette's coach was Alfred Bull, who had played center and
quarterback at Penn 1894-1895, alongside Swarthmore coach George
Brooke. Penn won a pair of MNCs in those years, and Bull was All
American as a senior. He coached Iowa to a 7-1-1 record in 1896, had a
couple of losing seasons at Franklin & Marshall, went 5-1-3 at
Georgetown in 1900, and then he went 37-10-3 at Lafayette 1903-1907.
Overall he was 62-34-15 at 5 schools.
lost to #4 Penn, #5 Harvard, and to 2 athletic clubs, all on the road.
They were 10-2 against colleges, and defeated #15 Army, #23 Penn State,
and 9-3 Washington & Jefferson.
10-1-1 Navy lost
by 1 point to #8 Swarthmore, and they tied #15 Army in their finale.
They gave #14 Virginia Tech (9-1) their only loss, and they beat #23
#14 Virginia Tech
Tech, then known as VPI (Virginia Polytechnic Institute), lost a close
game at #13 Navy, but they won all the rest of their games by more than
a touchdown, including a 16-6 win at #15 Army.
head coach was C. P. "Sally" Miles (pictured below at left), who had
played tackle here 1900-1902, then went 14-3-2 as coach 1905-1906. He
spent 59 years at the school, teaching German and chemistry for most of that time, and he was
known as "Mr. VPI." He was the athletic director at VPI 1920-1934, and
he also served stints as treasurer and dean at the school. He was
president of the Southern Conference, precursor to both the SEC and the
ACC, and he is in the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame.
fielded 5 All-Southern players, and that did not include their star,
Hall of Fame halfback Hunter Carpenter (pictured above at right). He
played at VPI 1899-1903, then at North Carolina in 1904, and then he
returned to VPI for a one-year encore this season. He scored 82 points
this season, and returned a kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown in the
12-6 loss to #13 Navy.
Although the team's biggest win came at
#15 Army, for them, at that time, the one that mattered was an 11-0 win
at 5-4 Virginia. That's because it was their first ever win over
Virginia, after 8 losses to their rival. Virginia was so mad about it
that they refused to play VPI again until 1923.
4-4-1 Army took
their losses to #1 Yale, #5 Harvard (by a touchdown), #12 Carlisle (by
1 point), and #15 Virginia Tech. They tied #13 Navy (10-1-1) in their
finale. That was their best "win," but they also defeated #24 Syracuse
was the champion of the South again (shared with Virginia Tech). Their
loss came 18-0 at #3 Michigan, but they simply destroyed every
other opponent (average score in their wins 53-1). On the other hand,
none of those teams were good, so we don't know much about Vanderbilt
champion of the Missouri Valley region again, lost badly at #3 Michigan
and at #7 Minnesota. They gave Rocky Mountain champion Colorado (8-1,
#19) their only loss 18-0 at home, and all their wins came by more than
a touchdown (including a 102-0 win at Creighton).
#18 Brown7-4 Brown took their losses to #1 Yale, #4 Penn, #5 Harvard, and #9 Dartmouth. Their one big win came 27-0 over #24 Syracuse.
8-1 Colorado was
the champion of the Rocky Mountain region again. They lost 18-0 at #17
Nebraska, but they rolled up huge scores in their other games and beat
some good teams, including #25 Kansas (10-1), 6-2 Utah, 7-3 Washburn,
and 5-4-1 Haskell.
Stanford was the champion of the West Coast, but that region was so cut
off from the rest of the country that they cannot really be compared to
the rest. None of their opponents appear to have been better than
mediocre, and they had 2 close wins, so their performance wasn't
to concerns over the safety of football, Stanford dropped the sport
after this season in favor of rugby, and the school wouldn't field a football team again
#21 Indiana and Purdue
and 6-1-1 Purdue tied each other on a neutral field, and each took
their one loss to #2 Chicago, so we'll place these state-sharing twins
into a tie at #21. Each team even had exactly one All-Western player,
and for each team that player was an end. On top of that, each team was
headed by a coach that had played for a Western Conference powerhouse
1899-1902. Spooky sameness here. Neither
really beat a good team, but the wins for
each all came by more than a touchdown, and they did beat some decent
winning teams (5-4 Illinois, 5-4 Missouri, 5-4 Notre Dame).
was headed up by James Sheldon (pictured), the school's first
professional football coach. He had played end and halfback at Chicago
1899-1902, twice team captain, and then he had been an assistant there
to Amos Alonzo Stagg. Indiana hired him away, and he went 35-26-3 here
1905-1913, making him one of the few coaches to leave the school with a
winning record. His teams were top 25 in 1905, 1906, and 1910,
and after his tenure Indiana would not be rated again until 1945 in the
original AP poll top 20, and 1937 in the fixed-and-expanded AP poll top
Indiana was the only team to score on Sheldon's alma mater,
#2 Chicago, this season. Their 8 wins were the most Indiana would
achieve in a season until they won 9 in 1945.
was coached by Albert Herrnstein (pictured), who had played at Michigan
the same years Indiana coach Sheldon played at Chicago, 1899-1902.
Herrnstein won an MNC at Michigan in 1902.
He coached Haskell in 1903 and 1904, going 7-3 and 8-1, both top 25.
Then he came here and again produced a top 25 team. This was his only
season at Purdue, however, as Ohio State hired him away, and he went
28-10-1 there 1906-1909.
#23 Penn State
8-3 Penn State
took their losses to #1 Yale, #12 Carlisle, and #13 Navy. They
struggled to get by 4-4 Dickinson, a weak performance, but they beat a
pair of good unrated teams 6-0 in their last 2 games, 8-1 West Virginia
and 10-2 Pittsburgh. Pitt lost to 6-4 Cornell, who lost to 4-3-2
took their losses to #1 Yale, #15 Army, and #18 Brown, none of them
close. They struggled against 5-4 Colgate, and they beat one good
unrated team, 6-3 Holy Cross.
Kansas lost 15-0 at #19 Colorado. Their one close win was 6-0 at 2-6
Arkansas. They defeated 7-2 Oklahoma, 6-2 Kansas State, 7-3 Washburn,
and 5-4 Missouri.
are the teams closest to making this top 25.
8-2 Iowa took
their losses by huge scores at #2 Chicago and at #7 Minnesota. All
their wins came by more than a touchdown, the best opponents being 6-3
Iowa State and 7-2-1 Grinnell. Those wins rendered Iowa the champion of
Holy Cross 6-3
6-3 Holy Cross
took their losses to #1 Yale, #9 Dartmouth, and #24 Syracuse, all on
the road. Their one big win came 9-0 over 3-1-2 Amherst (covered next).
3-1-2 Amherst fielded 3 straight top 25 caliber teams 1902-1904, but
those are the last times they did it, as they fall just short this
season. Their loss came 9-0 at 6-3 Holy Cross (covered above). They
pulled off a huge scoreless tie against #9 Dartmouth at home, but they
also tied 10-10 at 4-3-2 Columbia.
2) Chicago 11-0
3) Michigan 12-1
4) Pennsylvania 12-0-1
5) Harvard 8-2-1
6) Wisconsin 8-2
7) Minnesota 10-1
8) Swarthmore 7-1
9) Dartmouth 7-1-2
10) Princeton 8-2
12) Carlisle 10-4
13) Navy 10-1-1
14) Virginia Tech 9-1
15) Army 4-4-1
16) Vanderbilt 7-1
17) Nebraska 9-2
18) Brown 7-4
19) Colorado 8-1
20) Stanford 8-0
21) Indiana 8-1-1
23) Penn State 8-3
24) Syracuse 8-3
25) Kansas 10-1
Holy Cross 6-3